THE DEPARTMENT of Health has begun an investigation into oxygen therapies, which are being promoted in Britain despite fears that they are potentially harmful.
Three practitioners of alternative medicine are giving injections or infusions of either ozone or hydrogen peroxide for serious diseases including cancer, heart disease and ME. They advocated these therapies at a conference in London in April.
The American Cancer Society has condemned the use of hydrogen peroxide and ozone in the United States, and says there is 'little or no evidence that these substances are effective for the treatment of any serious disease and that each has demonstrated the potential for harm'.
Doctors in Britain are similarly alarmed. Vincent Marks, professor of clinical biochemistry at Surrey University, said he was concerned about the use of infusions of hydrogen peroxide into the blood through a drip system. 'These are unwarranted therapies for which there is no substantial evidence that they do any good,' he said.
Stanley Feldman, professor of anaesthesia at Charing Cross Westminster Medical School, said: 'Injecting ozone seems to me to be an absolutely lethal thing to do.'
Dr Fritz Schellander, a former GP, has admitted injecting patients suffering from cardio- vascular disease with ozone, despite knowing that at least six deaths in Germany, where the therapy is widely used, were associated with intravenous ozone. Dr Schellander, who is in private practice at Tunbridge Wells, Kent, said the deaths in Germany were linked to faulty equipment or incorrect administration. 'In three years of having used it regularly, there have not been any problems.'
Dr Hugh Cox and Dr Patrick Kingsley, both registered with the General Medical Council but also practitioners of alternative therapies, advocate intravenous hydrogen peroxide for a range of conditions. Dr Kingsley, who runs a private clinic in Leicestershire, gives injections of hydrogen peroxide to patients with multiple sclerosis, cancer, asthma and candida.
Dr Cox, whose private clinic is at Aylesbury, Buckinghamshire, said he treated with hydrogen peroxide any patients who 'show that they require it'. To test for this requirement and the right dosage, he brings patients into contact with different dilutions of hydrogen peroxide.
Two other alternative practitioners, Derek Wolfe and Dr Simi Khanna, are giving patients with Aids, ME and cancer forms of oxygen therapy that have not been tested in patient trials.
Mr Wolfe uses haematogenic oxidation therapy, which involves drawing off blood, mixing it with oxygen and irradiating it. After 20 minutes, it is returned to the patient's vein. Dr Khanna reinjects blood drawn from the patient after mixing it with oxygen and ozone. He said it was effective for hormone disorders, high blood cholesterol, Aids, colon and circulatory disorders.
Professor Feldman said that while these types of therapies used by Dr Khanna and Mr Wolfe were probably not dangerous, there was no scientific basis on which to claim they benefited patients.
However, patients remain convinced that oxygen therapies work. A terminal-cancer patient of Mr Wolfe's said the treatment had greatly improved his life. 'I feel good a lot of the time. Before, everything was an effort, I felt very tired. Now the days are quite normal.'
A patient of Dr Khanna said ozone therapy cured her cancer. After months of treatment, she said, Dr Khanna confirmed, using a blood test, that she was cured of cancer.
But a Department of Health spokesman said: 'The department is investigating the use of oxygen/ozone therapy in medical uses. The investigation will be concerned about the use of oxygen or ozone gas in hospitals for a range of diseases if there is no research evidence that has previously taken place to prove its effectiveness.'
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